Anytime I’m shopping in a good local beer shop, I’m always sure to look for any offerings from Collective Arts Brewing. Not only does the Hamilton, Ontario brewery make some great beer, but – as the name suggests – Collective Arts is an enthusiastic supporter of creativity outside of the brewing arts – namely music and visual arts. In addition to hosting performances by local musicians and displaying works by up-and-coming artists, Collective Arts commissions one-of-a-kind, limited-edition artwork to decorate each one of their canned beer offerings.

Of course, the real reason I always look for Collective Arts beers is because this can artwork occasionally features birds, including two editions we’ve already featured here at Booze and Birds. A sour IPA called Mash Up the Jam depicted what we decided was a cartoonish Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) in a comical send-up of Peter and the Wolf. And with Stranger than Fiction, a porter, we got a beautifully painted Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo).

As much fun as it was to add these birds to our Birds and Booze list, neither species is native to Canada, so it’s nice to see a cosmopolitan Barn Owl (Tyto alba) on this week’s featured beer by Collective Arts, a New England-style IPA called Life in the Clouds (even if Barn Owls are rather scarce around Hamilton and elsewhere in Ontario). The art for Life in the Clouds is titled “’Q’ Up and Quench Your Thirst” and was created by Alex Dos Diaz, a Philadelphia-based artist and illustrator whose meticulous and decorative style combines interests in Japanese animation and Art Nouveau. In Life in the Clouds, Dos Diaz’s Barn Owl glides over a haunting dreamscape of deep purple roses and thorns at dusk, dimly illuminated with a soft ultramarine glow.

The beer within the can is just as attractive as its artistic packaging. Pouring a cloudy, pale amber, Life in the Clouds offers sweet and refreshing aromas of blueberry pie and Meyer lemon zest with an herbal touch of green melon, all courtesy of the generous quantities of fruity Mosaic and Simcoe hops that go into this beer. Life in the Clouds is light on citrusy bitterness, combining instead a silky, smooth mouthfeel with the fresh flavors of mixed berries and doughy, sugary pie crust. The finish is soft and spritzy with a zesty flash of ginger at the end.

As part of their commitment to sponsor new art, Collective Arts changes the packaging for all of its beers often, so look for this Barn Owl edition of Life in the Clouds while it’s available. Of course, we hope to see many more bird-themed beer art from this fine brewery and the talented artists it hires in the years to come.

Good birding and happy drinking!

Collective Arts Brewing: Life in the Clouds

Four out of five feathers (Excellent).

Written by Tristan Lowery
Tristan Lowery’s busy homebrewing schedule took a hit in 2010 when he discovered birding and found that scanning the waterfowl at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on a frigid midwinter morning could be just as much fun as standing over a steaming mash tun in a sweltering Queens apartment in August. While his growing commitment to birding has undeniably diminished his brewing output of ales - fine and otherwise - Tristan finds that birding still affords him plenty of excuses to at least keep drinking beer, especially when celebrating life birds, lamenting unsuccessful chases, and capping off an exhausting Big Day or Christmas Bird Count. After leaving behind a hectic cooking career in New York City’s fine-dining scene, Tristan moved inland to the New York's Capital District, where the relative abundance of Pileated Woodpeckers almost makes up for the fact that he’s only seen a single Sanderling in Albany County ever. When he isn’t birding his local patches in urban Albany, Tristan works in energy regulation for the State of New York.